The Faculty of Science at the Kumpula campus is one of the most international faculties at the University of Helsinki. When Kumpula Science International, an organisation set up by international students and employees on campus, organised its annual spring party, it was attended by visitors from 37 different countries.
Kumpula Science International (KSI) came about in 2014, when international staff and students at the Department of Physics realised the need of a society for English speaking people on Kumpula campus. Now, people from every department in Kumpula are members.
Shirajum Monira (@EloviyoErina), Master’s student in physics, is the current chair of the organisation. While tutoring new students in 2015 she was approached with the suggestion that Kumpula campus should have an international students society.
When KSI organised its first party, it was a huge success and people grew curious about who the organisers were.
- The news about our small group spread like a chain reaction, and after the party the members started to consider how to organise themselves better, Monira says.
About greetings and winter boots
People arriving in Finland from other countries enter an unfamiliar world with customs and routines that may seem strange, so the KSI was not started just for the purpose of having fun. The organisation wants to bring forth the voice of international students and offer support for those arriving in an unfamiliar culture.
- When I attended my first student party, no one came over and talked to me. I was confused and wondered what I’d done wrong. Later, I realised that many Finns are shy and just don’t know what to say, Monira says.
She says that KSI encourages international students to greet and initiate contact with Finnish students – and vice versa.
You have to find winter boots that are appropriate for the weather, find an apartment, and where to charge your travel pass.
For many international students, encountering and surviving the dark and cold winter is a new experience. People from completely different climates and societies also meet many practical challenges. You have to find winter boots that are appropriate for the weather, find an apartment, and where to charge your travel pass.
- We don’t act stiff and official, giving out information like a government agent. Rather, we advice newcomers in a friendly manner, Monira says.
She points out that Finnish tutors also offer their help. The problem is that Finns are not always aware of all the things that are foreign to international students. However, international students who have arrived in Finland some time ago know which customs and situations may seem confusing, and so they can offer newcomers just the right kind of information.
A listening ear and a shared bond
KSI organises events all year. The most popular are the spring parties and excursions to sweets factory. There are coffee meet-ups open for everyone each month. The idea with the coffee meetings is to offer coffee and a place for meeting other students to share thoughts and experiences.
- At the coffee table, we can sometimes even discuss more serious issues; work problems, heartaches, or depression, says Monira. The threshold is low and a helping hand is always near. No one has to be alone.
Monira wants to thank the faculty staff especially for their open attitudes.
Though the newcomers are astonished at many things, Monira wants to thank the faculty staff especially for their open attitudes. The administration listens to the students and takes them and their ideas seriously. Monira says the international students have an especially positive impression of the professors, who are easy to approach and like to help the students.
KSI also acts as messenger between international staff and students on one hand and the university administration on the other. The society informs the administration about issues that are important to international students and encourages its members to participate in university events and gatherings.
In the future, KSI would like to form stronger bonds with international organisations that are active within other faculties. KSI representative have met other representatives at the gatherings of HYY, the student union of the University of Helsinki, and have discussed the matter.
The society is open for everyone at Kumpula. Many Finns also participate.
The society is open for everyone at Kumpula. Many Finns also participate. The Finns currently on the board of the society are very active, and many of the new members are Finnish. The common language is English, but there are three official languages; Finnish, Swedish, and English.
- KSI offers a unique meeting-place for Finnish and international students and staff at Kumpula. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to meet people from so many different countries in Kumpula. Do not miss this opportunity, says Monira with a smile.